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Slice of Life: Keeping veterans' stories alive

World War Two veterans are in their late 80's and 90's now. Hundreds of them die every day. But a Central Ohio man is determined to keep all veterans' stories alive, long after they're gone. (Courtesy: Eric Rood)

World War Two veterans are in their late 80's and 90's now. Hundreds of them die every day. But a Central Ohio man is determined to keep all veterans' stories alive, long after they're gone.

From the kitchen counter in his Dublin home, Eric Rood is helping to re-write history by talking to one veteran at a time.

"I get the histories that you don't read about or hear about," he says.

Eric conducts interviews for the Library of Congress Veterans Oral History Project. He's done several hundred so far. All of them have been on his own for no pay.

"The most I've done is 39 in one week," he says.

He's spoken with veterans from World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It's the missing information from our history. Just some fantastic stories and it's what any combat veteran or military veteran knows. But they don't talk about it," he says.

They do talk to Eric.For example, there's the pilot who was shot up over Burma.

"We had more damned holes in the back of that plane than you could shake a stick at," says Robert Arn. "But it was all small ammunition that hit it".

Eric spoke with soldier Robert Sturchie, tasked with guarding a WWII prisoner of war who turned out to be an American citizen.

"I'll never forget his name: Frank Passarelli. After all these years, I remember his name vividly," says Sturchie.

Then there was the army lieutenant, who was duct-taped to a tree by his platoon.

"The Lt. didn't like that too well. We did push-ups for days," laughed Joseph Fridley.

Every story is unique. Like the airman who put on a parachute but refused to jump when one side of their plane caught fire.

"He ain't going out. Until the other side burnt up and this side fell down and he fell out," said Robert Shroats.

Many stories are unknown. Until now.

"The most historically significant interview I did I think was with a fellow named Walter Klarin," says Rood.

Walter Klarin's top secret work during World War II made it possible for B-29's, like the Enola Gay, to fly at 70,000 feet. It was all part of the "Manhattan Project," something he knew nothing about until later.

"I'm reading the newspaper," says Klarin. "The Enola Gay Bombs Hiroshima. It still gives me chills when I...I had no idea," he said as his voice trailed off.

Five months after interviewing him, Walter Klarin died.

If not for Eric Rood, stories like these would be lost to the ages. Here, Rood is preserving them for generations to come.

"When you ask a routine question," he says, "you never know where it's going to lead."

Rood conducts interviews on the third Thursday of every month at the Franklin County Veteran Service Commission. You can call and schedule a time and he'll be there.

To watch Eric's full-length videos, click here.

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